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Racism and the left: Peter Tatchell and Alex Chalmers

On the one hand, veteran activist Peter Tatchell has been accused of racism.  The NUS’s LGBT officer, Fran Cowling, refused to share a platform with Tatchell because of alleged transphobic and racist views.  He did sign a letter in support of the free speech rights of Germaine Greer and others – but this does not make him transphobic.  Cowling’s accusation of racism seems to have even less basis:

[S]he does not have any right to make false McCarthyite-style smears. When asked to provide evidence of my supposed racism and transphobia, she was not willing to do so. There is none. Privately I tried to get her to withdraw her outrageous, libellous allegations. But she spurned all my attempts to resolve this matter amicably. As a result I have decided to take my case public.

In another email to the LGBT event organiser, Fran made the allegation that she has personally witnessed me using racist language. Untrue. I challenged Fran to produce evidence for this claim. She has failed to produce it – because the accusation is baseless.

The left is becoming increasingly associated with hypersensitivity towards anything which might conceivably be considered offensive, or just hurtful.   But when it comes to one form of bigotry whole swathes of the left are tin-eared – and that’s putting it generously.  Alex Chalmers, co-Chair of the Oxford University Labour Union, has resigned following the decision to endorse ‘Israel Apartheid Week’.  Here he describes the climate within which that decision was taken (transcript via Guido):

“Whether it be members of the Executive throwing around the term ‘Zio’ (a term for Jews usually confined to websites run by the Ku Klux Klan) with casual abandon, senior members of the club expressing their ‘solidarity’ with Hamas and explitictly [sic] defending their tactics of indiscriminately murdering civilians, or a former Co-Chair claiming that ‘most accusations of antisemitism are just the Zionists crying wolf’, a large proportion of both OULC and the student left in Oxford more generally have some kind of problem with Jews. The decision of the club to endorse a movement with a history of targetting [sic] and harassing Jewish students and inviting antisemitic speakers to campuses, despite the concerns of Jewish students, illustrates how uneven and insincere much of the active membership is”

You can read more about Chalmers’ resignation here.

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